leadership | February 22, 2017

How Fire Chief Darby Allen Guided Fort McMurray Through the Costliest Disaster, and Largest Evacuation, in Canadian History

How can you be your best, most resilient self when faced with a crisis? Fire chief Darby Allen—known as the human face of the Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016, Canada’s costliest natural disaster—draws on his long career to show how to be a stoic, quick-thinking leader in tough situations. 

During the devastating Alberta fires of 2016, Allen shot to international acclaim for leading Fort McMurray’s 88,000 citizens to safety, and for providing calm reassurance to the community throughout. But we all face emergencies, and Allen’s here to show us how to overcome them. In frank, jaw-dropping keynotes, he shares not just his strategy within a crisis, but how he learned and fortified those skills long before.   


Widely celebrated as a national hero—Allen is an exemplar of selfless courage and level-headedness under pressure as Regional Fire Chief of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, an area that encompasses the community of Fort McMurray. In spring 2016, he spearheaded the evacuation of the city’s entire population while the rest of the world watched. Throughout the ensuing weeks of operations, he worked tirelessly with first responders and volunteers, who came from across the nation (and globe) to assist. His updates to the media were not only a means of reliable information, but a source of optimism—Allen provided calm reassurance as the lead spokesperson throughout the rescue efforts. 

Heroes of the Fire: Fire Chief Darby Allen


As a new addition to the Lavin roster, Allen brings the riveting inside story of the rescue operations to audiences everywhere. Framed as a personal narrative, his keynotes take you through his day-to-day struggles against the fire. How did the teams make their countless, critical decisions? How did they maintain composure in life-or-death conditions? Simply—what was it like to endure, and overcome, a disaster of such magnitude in one’s own backyard? Beyond the personal, Allen also offers actionable takeaways for leaders in any field: lessons on encouraging and trusting your teammates wholeheartedly; never losing focus on the moment by worrying about the larger story; and establishing unbreakable relationships—before it’s too late. 


A native of Birmingham, England, where he worked as a firefighter for the Hampshire Fire Brigade, Allen emigrated to Canada in 1990. He began work as a firefighter with the Calgary Fire Department in 1992, moving up in rank from Training Officer to Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations, before moving on to Fort McMurray Fire Service in 2009, where he became Regional Fire Chief in 2013.


To book Darby Allen for a keynote, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau

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politics | February 16, 2017